In her lat­est high-pro­file role, Anna Friel plays the mother of a trans child

Empire (UK) - - The Watch List - BH

ANNA FRIEL KNOWS what it’s like to push bound­aries. She com­pares the bold­ness of her new drama se­ries, which re­volves around a trans­gen­der child, to her ground-break­ing les­bian kiss in Brook­side back in 1994, when she was 17. “Look how much things have changed in those 24 years, be­cause peo­ple have opened their eyes,” she says. Right now, though, it’s hard to think of a more hot-but­ton sub­ject than this.

Friel plays Vicky, the mother of 11-year-old Max (played by bril­liant new­comer Cal­lum Booth-ford), who iden­ti­fies as a girl and wants to be­come Max­ine. The child not only has to deal with the ev­ery­day chal­lenges of tran­si­tion­ing so­cially and at school, but also the frac­tured re­la­tion­ship be­tween their par­ents, who are es­tranged. Max/max­ine’s fa­ther Stephen is played by Em­mett J Scan­lan (who ap­peared in the Net­flix thriller Safe), and he has trou­ble un­der­stand­ing his child’s tran­si­tion is­sues. “Vicky still loves Stephen but he can’t bear the sit­u­a­tion they’re in,” Friel ex­plains.

Writ­ten by Tony Marchant (who pre­vi­ously tack­led the Iraq war no less, in his Chan­nel 4 film The Mark

Of Cain), and di­rected by An­thony Byrne (Peaky Blin­ders), But­ter­fly doesn’t flinch from the raw re­al­ity of what Max/max­ine has to ex­pe­ri­ence – from the bul­ly­ing and abuse of school­mates to the painful be­wil­der­ment of other mem­bers of her fam­ily. It also works as a pow­er­fully vivid piece of vis­ual sto­ry­telling.

As for the con­tro­versy that will inevitably en­sue when But­ter­fly ar­rives on TV, Friel is san­guine. “I’m not some­one who is go­ing to start lec­tur­ing peo­ple and say we’re some big, wor­thy drama. Be­cause each and ev­ery per­son has a right to have an opin­ion. What­ever they feel. But just, please, find un­der­stand­ing.”

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